The San Diego Chargers (9-6) and Kansas City Chiefs (8-7) will both be fighting for the final playoff spot in the AFC when they meet at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 17. While San Diego controls their own destiny, Kansas City needs some help to secure a wild-card berth, even if they manage to win the regular season finale.
San Diego enters the final week of the 2014 NFL season as the No.6 seed in the conference. A win guarantees them a game against the No.3 seed in the first round of the playoffs. If the Chargers lose, their season is over and the Chiefs have a chance to make the postseason for a second straight year.
Even if Kansas City is victorious, they’ll need favorable outcomes in two other games, both of which appear to be unlikely. The Chiefs can only earn a playoff spot if the Cleveland Browns beat the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Houston Texans. The Ravens are nine-point favorites and the Texans are giving the three-win Jaguars 9.5 points. Kansas City is favored by 2.5 points.
Both teams were in the playoffs last year, and the Chargers were in a similar position to the one that Chiefs find themselves in, entering the final week. San Diego defeated Kansas City, and got help from other teams in the AFC to grab the No.6 seed. The Chargers went on to upset the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the playoffs.
The Chiefs might not get what they require from the Jaguars and Browns, but they’ve proven that they can defeat the Chargers. Having lost three of their first five games to start the year, Kansas City visited 5-1 San Diego and left with a 23-20 victory. Alex Smith completed 19 of 28 passes for 221 yards and no interceptions, and the Chargers were limited to just 251 yards of total offense.
In their second matchup of the year, Kansas City, once again, looks to beat the Chargers, despite not playing their best football. The Chiefs were one of the favorites to win an AFC wild-card spot, but they’ve lost four of their last five games. Three of those losses came to playoff teams, but the first of those defeats was to the Oakland Raiders, who hadn’t won a game all year.
Kansas City’s offense has been their biggest issue. The Chiefs haven’t scored more than 20 points in any of their seven losses, and Alex Smith appears likely to go the entire season without completing a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. Jamaal Charles remains one of the league’s top running backs, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, but he hasn’t gotten more than 12 carries in his last four games.
The Chargers aren’t in the middle of an extended win streak, but they’ve found a way to pull out victories. In Week 16, they overcame a 21-0 deficit to beat the San Francisco 49ers in overtime. Before losing two straight to the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, San Diego scored a touchdown with 38 second left to beat the Baltimore Ravens, a victory that has proven to be key in tiebreaker scenarios.
In six of their nine wins, San Diego has scored at least 30 points and Philip Rivers has thrown at least three touchdown passes. The over/under for Sunday’s game is 43 points.
Prediction: San Diego over Kansas City, 20-17